Perfect Fried Chicken Breast

Nearly everyone loves fried chicken, whether its chicken tenders, wings, or a juicy thigh. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, eat it with waffles or salad, and dress it up sweet, spicy, or savory. No matter the way you look at it, it’s a tasty and versatile piece of meat.

For this recipe we’ll be focusing on making chicken breast, using the main breast – the large, teardrop shaped piece – though this works well with the ‘tenders’ or the small, thin fillets connected to the main breast and are often sold in packs on their own.

Prep

I’ve taken 3 large breasts and cut them in half from the side to create 6 thinner pieces, the same as in our tutorial for Perfect Pan-Seared Chicken Breast. Now, I’ve done this because my initial cuts of chicken were very thick (about a 1.5 inches), but for this shallow fry method, anything around 1 inch is fine and doesn’t need to be cut any thinner.

To marinate my chicken in buttermilk, I would normally use a shallow baking pan or one of my cooking bowls, but I’m borrowing my kitchen today, so I’ve used just a normal cereal bowl from the cupboard. But what if I don’t have buttermilk, you may ask. Well, neither did I, so I instead used 1 cup of whole milk plus 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and let that sit for about 5 minutes before I added the chicken. I leave this sitting in the fridge (covered with plastic wrap) for at least 20 minutes, but around 1-2 hours is ideal.

The acid helps tenderize the chicken, and allows the milk to fully soak through – adding both flavor and moisture.

Do you need to take this step? No, not technically, but your food will taste much better if you do. As an experiment, leave 1 piece of chicken out of the buttermilk and taste the difference at the end compared to those you let marinate. You should be able to taste a noticeable difference in how tender and juicy it is, as well as how much more flavorful the marinated chicken became.

Dredging and Cooking

Once you’re ready to start frying, you’ll need to set up a dredging station, where you’ll coat your chicken before frying. Feel free to use whatever you have at hand (bowls, plates, dishes, baking trays, etc), but place them in this order.

  1. Flour + seasonings (1 tsp each of paprika, cayenne, onion powder and, garlic powder, OR 1 Tbsp cajun seasoning)
  2. 1 egg + ¼ cup milk (or reuse the buttermilk from your marinade)
  3. Panko breadcrumbs

It’s done this way as the chicken is usually quite wet to the touch when handling. The flour sticks to the chicken, the egg to the flour, and the breadcrumbs to the egg. This process creates that crispy coating that won’t fall off the chicken while you eat.

Remove your chicken from the marinade and add salt and pepper to both sides. Meanwhile, heat up a large skillet and add enough oil to full coat the bottom of your pan and then some (around a ½ inch layer). You need to bring your oil up to 180 C (350 F), so it’s important to use an oil that can stand up to these temperatures without smoking, like vegetable or sunflower oil. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can wiggle the pan a bit to see if ripples form on the surface.

This is where things get messy. Using your fingers or tongs, take the first piece of chicken and place it in the first station with your flour and seasonings, flipping it over to coat if fully. Then transfer it to the egg/milk station. Lift it up again, allowing any excess egg to drip off, and then lay it gently in the breadcrumbs, coating it fully just as you did with the flour. Then slowly place it into the oil to avoid any splashes.

The chicken is only half-submerged which is what we want for an even cook.

Repeat this process a few more times, until you have 3-4 pieces frying in the oil. This is to prevent you from crowding the pan which drops the temperature of the oil and makes the oil seep into the chicken rather than just fry the outside.

Keep in mind that smaller pieces will not need as long to cook and may be finished before larger pieces put in before them.

Use tongs to check the bottom of the chicken and make sure it is turning that golden-brown color, starting from the first one you put in the oil. After about 4-5 minutes of cooking they should be ready to turn over. Cook for an additional 4-5 minutes and then remove them from the pan to a paper towel or cooling rack over a baking tray to drain. Immediately sprinkle salt over them once you have done so.

Place them so the part that was just in the oil is facing up, as the salt you are sprinkling on will help soak up the oil.

Fry up the rest of the chicken with the same process until you are finished. Be sure to turn off the heat and drain your excess oil into disposable container (like a jar or coffee can) once it has cooled so that the oil is not poured down the drain.

These crispy pieces of fried chicken are great with mashed potatoes and gravy, fries, cut up on a salad, or on a bun.

From here we’ll move on into cooking beef and looking into how changing just two factors can take your meat from bland to bursting with flavor.

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